PRETTY POISON ( United States1968)

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“Pretty Poison” is an interesting, unpredictable watch. Directed by Noel Black, this film is the story of a recently released Dennis Pitt (from a mental hospital), who’s trying to begin a new life in the real world (while still stuck in a childhood fantasy world in his mind).

Anthony Perkins plays Dennis  Pitt, the nervously energized, accident prone sap who will become the victim of high school “femme fatale” Sue Ann Stepanek ( a highly strung Tuesday Weld). Dennis, after being released, pretends to be a secret agent that’s recruiting Sue Ann to assist in the sabotage of the factory he is currently working at.

Sue Ann goes along with Dennis in playing out his fantasies, only to ensure that she adds more havoc to his already goofy plans. What starts off as a childish prank (and most of his schemes are childish) turns into complete collapse of the factory structure and the death of one of the security gaurds, due mostly through Sue Ann’s intervention.

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The search to find and question Dennis, leads to his hiding out with Sue Ann’s help. Between dodging his old doctor (who’s responsible for him since his release) Morton Azenauer, and being manipulated by Sue Ann to kill her mother (a wicked Beverly Garland), Dennis has turned into a nervous twitching idiot. He really hasn’t the bottle to kill anyone, and Sue Ann begins to use him as the patsy.

What’s interesting about this film is that the whole story of Dennis being set up as the patsy for a murder he didn’t commit, can be connected at that time with the John F. Kennedy assassination and America’s suspicion of foul play. It’s the losers like Dennis that the country won’t believe, while college students like Sue Ann are looked at as nice girls.

Sue Ann Stepanek is one of the few trully “bad seeds” of cinema. She has absolutely no morals or concience. She can commit murder, and resume living as if nothing has happened. But she’s also terribly exciting. She’s sexually active, she’ll live out your childish fantasies and games, and she’s very clever. But she’s poison. Incidentally, the factory that Dennis works at dumps hazardous chemicals in the lake everyday.

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This innocent looking chemical (which has a pretty glow) is a toxic compound that is being dumped into the cities water supply. Not only is this just a metaphore symbolic to Sue Ann’s character, but I can’t help feeling that maybe Sue Ann’s Mother was digesting some of these toxins while pregnant with Sue Ann. Because Sue Ann is trully a “bad seed” from birth.

An intelligent film that never received it’s fair dues, slipping under the radar while “The Thomas Crown Affair” packed them into the cinemas. Perkins is really demented here and how the Tuesday Weld character could fall for him as a secret agent is beyond me. Maybe because she is supposed to be a ‘naive’ 18 year old in the story. Murder, mayhem and psycho-sexual (if there’s such a phrase) misery best describe this.

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Comments

  1. Anthony Perkins in yet another typecast role ha ha! Great review of this interesting flick. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. AP was always on the wrong side of the law wasn’t he? 🙂

    Like

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